Michigan man lies about inability to stand, walk to steal $250K in VA benefits

Joseph Scott Gray sentenced to 5 years in federal prison

Joseph Scott Gray before and after VA medical exam (U.S. Attorney's Office Western District of Michigan)

Grand Rapids, Mich. – A Michigan man was sentenced to five years in federal prison for lying to Veterans Affairs (VA) to obtain $250,000 in benefits.

Joseph Scott Gray, a citizen of Lawton, Michigan, repeatedly told the VA that he could not walk or stand, but it turned out, he could.

On Oct. 26, 2017, Gray went to a VA Medical Center in Battle Creek for an exam. When he arrived, he was in a wheelchair. During the exam, he told the VA employees that he hadn’t walked in 10 years and that he was unable to use his left hand.

Right after the appointment at the medical center, he was seen at a local restaurant freely walking in and out of the building and carrying leftovers in his left hand.

The 53-year-old was convicted by a federal jury on four counts:

  • Engaging in a conspiracy to defraud the government
  • Providing false statements to VA
  • Theft of government funds
  • Presenting a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim for benefits

After the trial, the Court found that Gray committed perjury by falsely testifying that his medication caused him to lie to VA employees and that his medication also caused him to regain his ability to walk so quickly.

He was also found to have falsely testified that it was his brother, not him, in a video from a local feed store in which he was seen walking and carrying a 50-pound bag of cat food.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker explained that this significant sentence was necessary because the fraud has spanned 15 years and involved lies to the VA and the federal jury. Judge Jonker also noted Gray’s obstruction of justice by committing perjury, but also brought up his obstruction of justice in a previous federal case when he threatened a witness.

In 2011, Joseph Scott Gray was sentenced to 27 months in prison after a jury convicted him of engaging in the unlicensed sale of firearms.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten stated, “Our nation has an obligation to care for our veterans and we must ensure they receive the medical care and disability benefits they need and deserve. Those who lie and fraudulently obtain VA benefits they are not entitled to receive not only steal from American taxpayers but from the veterans who served in defense of our country. My office will fight to protect VA benefits for those in genuine need of treatment and support.”

“Misrepresenting symptoms to the VA to fraudulently obtain benefits takes resources from deserving veterans and will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Gregory Billingsley with the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Central Field Office. “The VA OIG will continue to vigorously investigate those who would steal from VA benefits programs and taxpayers.”

About the Author:

Morgan is a Digital Editor and has been with WDIV since May of this year. She is also studying political science and communications at Wayne State University.